White House versus John McCain

Reuters: McCain’s daughter slams White House aide’s ‘he’s dying’ comments

Meghan McCain on Friday questioned how the White House aide who disparaged her ailing father, Republican U.S. Senator John McCain, during a meeting, still has a job.

Kelly Sadler, a White House communications aide, dismissed Senator McCain’s objection to President Donald Trump’s nominee to be CIA director, Gina Haspel, by saying that it “doesn’t matter, he’s dying anyway,” a source familiar with the closed White House meeting told Reuters.

Speaking on the ABC show “The View,” which she co-hosts, Meghan McCain said she wanted to inform Sadler that her father’s battle with brain cancer has made her realize the meaning of life was “not how you die, it is how you live.”

“I don’t understand what kind of environment you’re working in when that would be acceptable, and then you can come to work the next day and still have a job,” McCain said.

Several of McCain’s fellow Republicans on Capitol Hill have condemned Sadler’s remarks.

Jeff Flake, Arizona’s other senator and a frequent critic of the White House under Trump, tweeted an article about the comments and wrote: “There are no words.”

Iowa Senator Joni Ernst tweeted that the United States should “treat this war hero and his family with the civility and respect they deserve.”

Sadler’s comments were reported the same day that a guest on Fox Business Network, retired Air Force Lieutenant General Thomas McInerney, suggested McCain divulged critical information to the North Vietnamese after being tortured.

 A network spokesperson said McInerney would no longer be invited on the Fox Business Network or Fox News.

The Hill: White House official calls Meghan McCain to apologize for remark about father

A White House official called Meghan McCain on Thursday to apologize after she mocked Sen. John McCain’s  cancer diagnosis during a meeting earlier in the day, a source told The Hill.

In a statement, the White House did not deny that Sadler made the remarks, which came amid a discussion of Haspel’s nomination to lead the CIA and McCain’s opposition to it.

“We respect Sen. McCain’s service to our nation, and he and his family are in our prayers during this difficult time,” the White House said.

“People have wondered when decency would hit rock bottom with this administration. It happened yesterday.

John McCain is a genuine hero – a man of valor whose sacrifices for his country are immeasurable. As he fights for his life, he deserves better – so much better. Given this White House’s trail of disrespect towards John and others, this staffer is not an exception to the rule, she is the epitome of it.

Ours children learn from out example. The lingering question is whose example will it be. I am certain it will be John’s.”

– Joe Biden

This may seem like a storm in a swamp, but it is in a context of disrespectful president who has attacked many people. This is Donald Trump speaking about McCain during the presidential campaign:

“I supported him for president. I raised a million dollars for him, that’s a lot of money. I supported him, he lost, he let us down, but you know he lost and i never liked him as much after that cause i don’t like losers.

But…he’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero ’cause he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured ok I hate to tell you.

More recent context: Hatch Apologizes to McCain for Suggesting Trump Should Attend His Funeral

The New York Timeshad reported over the weekend that the ailing McCain has specifically said that he does not want Trump to come to his funeral, preferring Vice-President Pence to attend instead. This makes complete sense, considering that Trump has ridiculed McCain both for his service in Vietnam (“I prefer war heroes who weren’t captured”) and his legislative record, with McCain returning fire.

Utah senator Orrin Hatch apologized to John McCain on Tuesday after suggesting on Monday that the ailing senator should invite President Trump to his funeral, even though McCain has made it clear that he doesn’t want Trump there.

Hatch said on Monday that McCain’s wish for a Trump-free ceremony was “ridiculous,” drawing the ire of Meghan McCain.

“I’d like everybody to take a collective breath and chill out on my dad for a second — especially Orrin Hatch,” McCain said on The View, which she co-hosts.

Hatch then had a change of heart.

“I agree with the daughter,” Hatch told the Washington Post on Tuesday, in a strange turn of phrase. “I shouldn’t have said anything yesterday. I agree a hundred percent with her.” The Post reported that Hatch had also sent McCain a letter expressing his regrets.

A shit fight over a dying Senator does nothing to enhance an awful image of US politics.

An once this shows how much one small remark can impact on both the news cycle and on one person’s reputation and potentially her career.

Dignity in dying

Sudden deaths, for example from accidents or heart attacks, give you no choice about how you die. There’s no way of changing that.

If your death is from illness takes time, in many cases there are choices. For example whether you send your last weeks or months at home, in a hospice or in some other care facility.

But one choice is not available to us, legally. That is, to choose to die a bit sooner than natural causes dictate, to ease pain and suffering.

The debate about assisted death or voluntary euthanasia has been revived in New Zealand as Parliamentary committee considers a record number of submissions.

Here’s a thought from a UK campaign, Dignity in Dying.


Gareth Jones, dying and cannabis oil

Gareth Jones is dying of cancer. He was told he had only a few months to live (last October). He producing his own cannabis oil and self medicating with it. He says it helps his pain and thinks it may have extended his life. But it’s illegal.

3-D (3 News): Cancer patient says NZ needs law change on medical cannabis

His pain is substantial. He’s doing his best to manage it with pharmaceutical drugs administered through this “pain patch”, but he’s adamant the cannabis oil is playing a lead role in fighting the pain and improving his quality of life.

He says the benefits are sleeping, pain relief and appetite.

Mr Jones also believes his homemade medicine is extending his life. Last October he was told he had just three months to live.

“The way the oncologist was talking it was more like I’d have a month of good and maybe a month or two after that, maybe three months tops, and he was talking six months as the extreme side of it and I’m over that now,” says Mr Jones.

Regardless of whether the cannabis oil is providing any real medical benefit – even if it is just having a placebo effect – surely there is nothing wrong with a dying man from using it. It’s hard to see what harm can be done by it.

Without fail, every night Mr Jones takes two capsules – a measured combination of his home-cooked cannabis oil mixed with coconut oil.

“Yes [I get high], but that’s why I take it at night, so I sleep off the effects, so I don’t really feel anything. So that’s why I take a good dose at night then wake up in the morning and it’s gone and I carry on the day like normal.”

He needn’t get high – if the law allowed him to use cannabis oil that was low in intoxicants. Cannabis low in THC can be grown although it isn’t readily available in New Zealand.

But so what if he gets high?

What makes it even more frustrating for Mr Jones is seeing the recent legalisation of medical cannabis across the United States; in many states what he’s doing is totally legal.

“It’s pretty average really. For trying to extend my life and spend more time with my family I get made a criminal for it.

“Something needs to change in New Zealand. Most other countries have woken up to it. And using it for medicinal use anyway, they’ve been doing it for a long time with good results now, so it’s about time New Zealand finally caught up.”

Overseas, studies have found cannabis works well on chronic pain, especially for people like Mr Jones with late-stage cancers.

But this family can’t wait for New Zealand to catch on. Mr Jones is determined to see his daughter turn three. If that means breaking the law, then that’s what he’ll do.

“I guess I’ll just keep taking my nightly pills and go from there I guess. I don’t really have back-up plans now.

I suppose there’s a risk that now Gareth has gone public the police could arrest him. What then – put him in a prison hospital and does him up on morphine?

Morphine is often legally provided for pain relief and that is highly intoxicating. It seems nuts that a milder and far safer intoxicant can’t be legally used, especially as it might provide other medical benefits as well.

The Ministry of Health told 3D as part of a wider review of the Medicines Act it’s looking into the legislation around the use of controlled drugs, including cannabis. The results of the review will be released next year.

It seems likely Gareth will be dead by next year. Because our Government is paranoid about sick and dying people getting high using cannabis – already one of the most widely used drugs in New Zealand.

Choices about euthanasia

I had a close encounter with the pros and cons of euthanasia recently as I watched my mother die.

She had expert care and assistance in her home and at the hospice. The hospice uses care plans that emphasise comfort for the patient within current laws.

Emergency admission to hospital with reflux and difficulty eating. Tests done, suspected possible hernia. Discharged.
Continued having eating and reflux problems.

Further outpatient tests.

Diagnosed with oesophageal cancer.
Treatment options explained. Booked for radiation therapy to try to relieve symptoms.
Continued difficulty eating – can’t eat many things, can only eat liquids or near liquids. Some food, for example meat, cannot be eaten at all.

Three week course of radiation begins.
Admitted to hospital after first treatment.
Several days later discharged to family home, radiation continues.

Eating continues to be difficult, no real improvement.
Saw specialist, advised relief may take another month.

Liquid diet only.
Saw specialist who advised they had done what they could, referred to Hospice for in home palliative care.

Week 1
Bad back pain for several days, admitted to hospital with kidney infection.
Tests confirmed cancer now in liver.
Eating increasingly difficult.

Week 2
Back in home but has difficulty managing.
Talks about considering self euthanasia. Says she just wants to go quickly.
Has fall on footpath in town.
Needs walking frame.
By the end of the week it’s obvious she needs more care.

Week 3
1. Assessed by hospice doctor, booked into hospice for assessment
2. Arrived at hospice and advised she would be there about a week.
3. Advised that she wouldn’t be leaving the hospice.
4. Drinking is increasingly difficult. She says she just wants to go quickly.
5. Has final interview for hospice memoirs.
6. Had a fall overnight trying to go to toilet. Enjoyed watching rugby on TV. Last “meal”.
7. Significantly worse.

Week 4
1. Continues to deteriorate. Family advised she is now on final care plan, death could be within a day or two but could take much longer.
2. Looks terrible, barely recognisable. Barely awake all day. Overnight her body goes just about completely cold. Death rattle begins.
3. Bounces back in the morning. Awake and seems to enjoy family visits in the afternoon. Goes cold again overnight.
4. She looks nothing like my mother. Slight recovery, then has internal bleed.
5. Cold. Slightly warm. Cold. Hasn’t eaten since Saturday, all she has had is moisture swabs in mouth. Death rattle gets worse despite drugs.
6. Vigil continues. Turned regularly with distress. In the evening death rattle isn’t be relieved. Nurses turn her with a lot of discomfort.
7. Very distressing. Nurses leave room to get drugs.

At about twenty minutes after midnight my mother opened her eyes and looked at me, she looked desperate, pleading, terrified, I’m not sure what, just terrible.

Then thankfully she died.

After the nurses had finished my mother looked like herself again, relaxed.

My mother was lucky she died relatively quickly. Her last few months were mostly not nice for her, increasingly less so. During that time she never enjoyed a meal.

My mother had talked a number of times about wanting to go quickly when her time was up. She mentioned several times about euthanasing herself. The hospice always made it clear they had to comply with the law and within that they did a fantastic job.


What the best possible palliative care did for my mother over her last few days was supply her with regular drugs, support relatives who were on death watch, and turn her regularly.

The regular turns were necessary, but they were awful. They were about the only times my mother became semi awake, because it was so disruptive and uncomfortable for her.

It was a turn that actually triggered her death. It’s ironic that they are allowed to turn a patient and know it can commonly precipitate death, but they can’t up her drugs to do the same thing.

Euthanasia is a very tricky subject. If it was legal when should it be allowed?

In retrospect I think (and I think my mother would probably think similarly) that it would have been sensible and far better for her if she had been helped to die sooner. While her last Wednesday was “useful” for saying goodbye to quite a few visitors if she could have seen how she looked she would have been horrified.

Looking back I think that her last Monday evening when it became obvious she was in a state of dying a decision could have been made to ease her pain and discomfort and help her die.  She got no benefit from being nursed through an extended death.

The last week was very hard on extended family who put their lives on hold and gathered round to watch a strange old body suffering. But the decision isn’t about them.

I’m certain if my mother had seen herself in any of her last week alive she would have been horrified – it was the sort of situation she’d made it clear she wanted to avoid if at all possible.

I know there are many variables when people are dying and it’s impossible to be certain of timeframes and discomfort levels.

But to me it seems senseless, and it could easily be seen as cruel, to extend someone’s life when there is virtually nothing to be gained from it.

If I can have a say in the course of my death I would like to be able to state that I want to be able to die comfortably, if necessary with assistance, and I don’t care if there’s a slight chance that I could have eked out another day or two of consciousness.

Care has to be taken in deciding when to go – if you are lucky to get the choice – but denying any legal opportunity to choose a more comfortable way of dying a little bit sooner is not very caring. It’s selfish of those insisting on every last minute of life extension.